Powers Cosmic #5
Written by Morfex and Janus, Edited by
(Note: This follows Powers Cosmic #1, #2, #3, and #4)
Powers Cosmic #5
Voracity, The Final Chapter: "Energy Manipulation"
Doctor Victor von Doom stood, watching as Starglow departed his castle and Latveria, seemingly for good. He covered his hideous features once more with the mask he always kept nearby.
He reviewed several mechanisms near the destroyed power siphon to see what had gone wrong. Starglow should not have been able to affect the transfer as she had. His data corroborated his suspicions. He began the recording device built into his armor for scientific journal entries. "8:23 a.m. Doom Standard Time. The telemetry confirms that the Power Cosmic is in a state of flux, having fundamentally changed, presumably due to the recent events of the Cosmic Union. The Devourer's choice to unite the former Heralds with their original organic forms may have been inspired neither by altruism nor by a desire to teach his former Heralds a lesson in humility. Starglow is non-organic and therefore unstable. Her energies surge and flow erratically. Unless she is reunited with her physical form, she will suffer the Power Cosmic equivalent of a reactor meltdown." Doom deactivated the recorder. "Shalla Bal, none may treat Doom thus without consequence "
"Reed Richards, I need your help." Shalla Bal hovered near the security field around the newly established Fantastic Four base at Pier Four. She assumed correctly that monitoring devices would pass her message on to the renowned scientist and adventurer.
Soon, Reed appeared at the door wearing a long white laboratory coat over his blue and white team uniform. "Shalla Bal? Welcome! Please, come in!" The security field adapted to allow her entry.
"Professor Richards, I fear you are my final hope. The Power Cosmic has driven the former Heralds of Galactus mad with Hunger, I have nowhere else to turn. Galactus would not aid me, he was too consumed with his own appetite to address his former servants' needs."
"Galactus is feeding again? That is strange. When last the Fantastic Four encountered the Devourer, and even during the Cosmic Union, he had a plentiful source of energy, my grandson from the future, Hyperstorm. I wonder what could have happened to their stalemate?"
Richards proceeded to the telephone. "Hello, Wong. This is Reed Richards. Is Stephen home, please? Thank you. Hello, Stephen? Reed. Could you please come over, I would like to consult with you " Before Reed could finish, Doctor Strange was standing before him, hands still poised in a complex gesture of magical teleportation. " Oh!" Reed promptly hung up the phone.
"Starglow! Greetings, fellow Protector of the Universe!" Stephen Strange smiled warmly, then frowned in concern at the Zenn Lavian woman's clear distress. "What has happened?"
With that, Shalla Bal and Mister Fantastic described the situation.
"I see. So Hyperstorm is presumably still trapped in another dimension, but Galactus no longer feeds off of him. Interesting. What must begin there." Doctor Strange considered the implications.
Mister Fantastic took less than half an hour to gather the appropriate tools and equipment for their journey. During this period, Starglow informed Doctor Strange of her poor judgement in turning to Doctor Doom first for aid. "I regret not coming here first. I fear the price of my rash choice."
Stephen Strange secretly agreed, but kept his harsh opinion to himself. "You are here now, Shalla Bal. That is all that matters."
When Mister Fantastic was ready, Doctor Strange cast a spell, causing the three heroes to enter Hyperstorm's prison dimension beyond time and space, equipment in tow. The villain remained bound and unconscious, bursting with energies that mingled into hyperspace. Doctor Strange mystically scanned the being before them. "Strange, the physical form before us is alive, but uninhabited. It is as if his spiritual essence has since departed."
Shalla Bal felt a pang of shame as she observed the twisting facial features of Mister Fantastic. Despite all the evil he had wrought, Hyperstorm was still the flesh and blood descendant of Richards. Reed's expression betrayed terrible regret. Shalla Bal looked away, thinking of Roddan Bal, Tyrant's corrupted Anti-Herald and Starglow's own descendant.* She quietly sympathized with Richards and afforded him what privacy she could, given the circumstances.
(*See Powers Cosmic #2 for details.)
Suddenly, the Living Tribunal appeared before the trio of visitors. "SORCERER SUPREME, DO NOT SEEK TO USE THIS BEING AS A MEANS OF CURTAILING THE DEVOURER'S HUNGER. I HAVE DECREED THAT GALACTUS CAN NO LONGER AVOID HIS OBLIGATIONS TO THE UNIVERSE. HIS PURPOSE IN THE GREAT BALANCE IS TO FEED."
Reed's self-torment was momentarily interrupted. He nodded pensively at the Tribunal's words, already extrapolating potential repercussions.
Doctor Strange bowed as a gesture of respect to the entity to whose judgement all Cosmic Beings must adhere. Before he could speak, however, Starglow spoke with surprising modesty borne of experience in diplomacy. "Revered Tribunal, you say that by your decree, Galactus may not utilize this nearly endless energy source. Just as you have cut off Hyperstorm as a source of sustenance for the Devourer, should you not also cut off the Heralds, who now alleviate Galactus' Hunger as well? They too must now feed."
The Living Tribunal considered this briefly. "ALL THREE FACES ARE IN AGREEMENT. THE HERALDS' REPLENISHING CANNOT FEED BACK TO THE DEVOURER. HE CAN NO LONGER QUELL HIS HUNGER VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THEM, NO MATTER ON HOW SMALL A SCALE."
"Mighty Tribunal, does your decree banning Galactus from the energies of Hyperstorm extend to his former Heralds?"
"NO, MY DECREE DOES NOT BAR THE HERALDS, FOR THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THE BALANCE IN THAT MANNER. THEY MAY DO AS THEY WISH." The Living Tribunal disappeared from the hyper-realm.
Doctor Strange turned to Shalla Bal with admiration. "Well done, Starglow!"
Shalla would not take the credit. "I am certain the Tribunal would have eventually made the determination on his own. It does not change matters. Only you can do that, Professor Richards."
Richards calibrated his equipment, then set it up as a satellite in orbit around Hyperstorm. "This device will absorb energy and transfer it in constant quantities through the aperture chips I have designed. The satellite is equipped with defensive measures, as well as alarms that can be monitored through the chips and from my laboratory. Unfortunately, although the energies will be converted safely by the Power Cosmic, it is far too volatile to use as a power source on Earth. I fear that only the former Heralds can benefit from this arrangement."
With that, Doctor Strange returned them to Earth. Shalla Bal noted once more the look of sorrow that struck Reed Richards as the last image of his grandson's plight faded from view.
Back at Reed's laboratory, he quickly regained his composure and air of scientific dispassion. "The aperture chips do have a maximum processing capacity, Shalla Bal. The Heralds will not be omnipotent, I would estimate roughly around the Surfer's previous know upper limits on Earth. The aperture chips are designed to remain embedded within organic matter. You may insert them at the base of the skull with this hypo-gun for best results. You will need your own energies to penetrate the layer of cosmic glaze that covers the organic skin of all the former Heralds."
"Thank you both! Now I must seek out my comrades. Goodbye and my thanks again!" She departed Earth in seconds.
Shalla Bal chose Gabriel Lan first, because of what had happened to him in Doom's laboratory.* He lamented a thriving world as he orbited it in anguish, trying to drive off the gnawing inside him. Shalla Bal was a welcome sight, her explanation readily accepted. He attempted to create a small opening in the cosmic layer surrounding his organic form, but he was too weak. Shalla used her powers to create a scalpel of energy capable of traversing the layer of Power Cosmic.
(* See Powers Cosmic #4 for details.)
Soon, the Silver Surfer and Nova both joined them in similar manners. As they approached the location of Firelord, they all felt it deep within their souls. They would be too late.
Firelord was beyond desperation. He was completely insane. He no longer presided over his body; his conscience was simply a captive passenger observing in horror from deep within a distant corner of his broken mind. His body descended upon a lunar satellite bursting with bio-energy; it orbited a gas giant in a stellar system near the galactic rim.
His conscience attempted one final influence, veering his voracious organic form to a land-locked seabed. His desperate hope was that, as Terrax's first Hunger was sated by one large island, his too would fall short of devouring the entire moon.
Steam rose as Firelord reached the bottom of the sea, abundant with aquatic life. He began to feed voraciously, blinded to loss of all reasoning as he consumed that spark of life that was so rare and cherished in the Universe.
The rest of the Powers Cosmic team arrived to see Firelord hovering in space, weeping tears of cosmic flame. They noted that his appearance had changed somehow, the fire seemed redder, applied more consistently across his body, as with the Human Torch.*
(*See the cover of Marvel's Thor #23 for a visual.)
Below him the once thriving moon lay, alive but scarred. An ocean that, only moments before, had been blue with the vibrant nature of life, now reflected only black and choppy waves, a dead sea.
Firelord was sobbing. "The sentients here are rife with potential, their technology no greater than pre-industrial Xandar. I tried to target an unpopulated area, but was unaware of their humanoid water-breathing tribe until it was too late! The sea's sentient population was nearly extinct, numbering just under one thousand. They all died wondering what the strange glow from above meant."
Shalla Bal was the first to speak. "Pyreus, it was not your fault."
"Do not dare say that! All of you somehow managed to keep the insanity at bay! Why not I?! How is this any different than when Dark Phoenix destroyed the D'Bari people?!* Why should I be held any less accountable? As Heralds, we were unwitting accomplices to murder. Now, I AM a mass murderer!"
(* In Marvel's Uncanny X-Men 136.)
His sobs tore at their hearts. "What strength of character or measure of heroism did I lack? Was it because I expended more energy than all of you during the battle with the Anti-Heralds? And how long will this bio-energy last? What of the next time?"
Gabriel Lan spoke. "We are your peers, Pyreus. We know you would never do such a thing consciously. This is a clear case of temporary insanity. We also know that, with Shalla's solution, the Hunger shall not return again. The insanity is at an end."
Firelord's, fiery tears ceased for a moment, a flicker of hope shot past his expression of remorse.
With a brief explanation, Shalla Bal applied the hypo-gun as Doctor Richards had suggested. The aperture chip found its target and drove off the Hunger forevermore with a continually replenishing resource of power.
Firelord turned to his comrades. "I need time. Can you understand? I need some time to come to terms with this atrocity, to make amends to the people below. As Herald, I witnessed such death many times. But this time I am directly responsible. No amount of sophistry will ever make that less true. Please, just leave me alone. I promise I will seek you out when I am ready to return to the fold." With that, Pyreus Kril departed for the surface.
Nova turned to Air-Walker, a sob stuck in her throat. "Gabriel, what are we going to do?"
Gabriel contemplated the alternatives. "Give him space and time, Frankie. I love Pyreus like a brother, and I know him well. He will learn to accept that the burden of Cosmic Hunger was never meant for mere mortals. This is a time of mourning for those who died, but also a time of congratulations. Starglow, you single-handedly saved the three of us from Firelord's fate. You are to be commended."
"Thank you, Gabriel. Single-handedly is an overstatement. I could not have succeeded without the aid of Norrin's Earth allies. But my poor judgement in seeking out Galactus and Doctor Doom first delayed my eventual solution. I bear as much responsibility for this moon's loss as does Pyreus. And no matter how we try to paint my final plan of action as a victory, I still feel as if we lost this day. I too have unfinished business, and so I request a brief leave of absence as well."
The Surfer responded. "I think it best if we all take time to recover from our recent trials in our own fashions. We must ease into this new status quo of energy absorption. Gabriel, you are our leader, will you allow us a brief respite? I wish to return to Alicia Masters for a visit that is long overdue."
Nova and Starglow both stung at this last comment, though both knew they had no claim on Norrin Radd's affections. Their relationships were ancient history. Indeed, a new status quo had been established among the members of the Powers Cosmic.
Air-Walker nodded solemnly. "Very well, if that is your preference, then so shall it be. Nova, will you accompany me back to Io?"
Terrax sensed Shalla Bal's presence beyond the barrier. He used his axe to carve a small boulder into a foothold to lift him to the edges of the planet's atmosphere. Shalla Bal knew that sound could not pass through the barrier that entrapped Tyros. She pressed her open palms firmly against the barrier's surface, smooth as glass but unbreakable. She attempted a smile, but knew well the tragedy that had befallen Terrax. She remembered returning to Zenn La to find it consumed by Galactus years before. It mattered not that Zenn La was but an illusion at the time. It was real to her and to her people. But the tragedy had birthed a new hope as well.
She hovered, waiting for Terrax to somehow acknowledge her presence. Finally, he recognized her gesture of friendship and sympathy, and knew it was not pity she felt for him. Terrax lifted his open hands as well, pressing them firmly against the barrier from the other side. Though impenetrable, the barrier was less than a molecule thick; their hands appeared to touch. Terrax's visage cracked a hardy smile, and he knew what he must do. With a wave farewell to the one member of the Powers Cosmic he might dare call friend, he descended to the barren surface below. Starglow knew that he had understood. She departed for Io, content with her decision to make the small detour.
Terrax stood, eyes closed on a once verdant field. He took a slow step forward, using the smallest portion of the Power he had absorbed from the world. Behind him, grass and shrubs began to grow
Check out Air-Walker, Nova, and Starglow in Star Masters #5! And go read Marvel's Galactus the Devourer #1 through #6 to see where the Silver Surfer and Galactus went from there!
Now be sure to send us comments below or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org so we know what you thought of this first exciting saga of the Powers Cosmic. Then come back next month for Powers Cosmic #6, where we answer the questions: Where are the Anti-Heralds? Who is the new Tyrant? Where is Shalla Bal's organic form? And the Epilogue to Marvel's Galactus the Devourer! In Chapter One of a two-part tale we could only call: "The Ties that Bind."
Be sure to also check out our POTU Archive Page for more stories of the Powers Cosmic and other Protectors of the Universe teams. And don't forget to send some comments below!